Mama is a Queen, Create a Spa Environment
by Summer Menkee, CEIM
“Taking care of a newborn is not nearly as hard as taking care of yourself. My post partum doula care is all about mothering the mother.” ~ Dayva Savio
So many parents think they will just bond right after birth, naturally. Then, once baby comes they realize how much support they really need, which can feel overwhelming.
I sat down with Postpartum Doula Dayva Savio, also a Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, where she studied in Hawaii.
S: What made you decide to become a post-partum doula?
D: After having a baby myself, it brought everything into perspective how I could help other moms make self care a priority, which in turn helps them provide better family care. Parenting is so isolating. It was for me. My own experience made me realize we need to create a village, because no one else is going to do it for us.
S: As a massage therapist yourself, did you massage Buck as a newborn?
D: I absolutely loved my time massaging Buck as a newborn! I used my massage training and modified things for baby. He wasn’t a colicky baby, but he did have gas. He still loves the knees to tummy relief! Those first 2-3 months were really sweet. We started a bed time routine very early on that includes massage, books and songs. But, I used to massage Buck all the time, any time of day, just because I liked him to be naked and I knew it was good for him. We still sing the same song before bed to this day. It’s “Devoted To You” by the Everly Brothers.
One of Dayva’s goals for her families is to equip them with the referrals they need to help them create that village for themselves.
D: Mama needs help, mama needs to be nourished in the first 1-4 weeks. I tell my families, “I want to create a spa like environment for you.” I want to support that oxytocin release that’s happening, not just for mom, for dad (or partner) too. I want to support that energy flowing… Massaging mom is part of that process.
S: Tell me more about your Healing Touch process.
D: I begin with massaging the mother. I teach them certain baby massage strokes and reaffirm how beneficial it is to baby’s growth, comfort and development. I will show them a few things on their baby, but mostly I want to build confidence in parents that they can do it. I’m a very “hands off” doula when it comes to the baby. That baby would way rather have mommy or daddy massaging them, not me. I encourage parents to take an Infant Massage class later on, also so they can meet other parents and continue to build their village. While I’m there in the early days- I’m cleaning, doing baby’s laundry, cooking, serving meals to parents in bed (if they want that)… I’m really giving ample time to just be with their baby, skin to skin. I like to provide as many tools as possible to help the bonding process, so they’re not just holding baby in one arm, while on Facebook in the other. (LOL!)
S: Do you find that parents are nervous about the amount of pressure to use when massaging their baby?
D: What I like to relay to all parents, is what Davi (Khalsa, midwife) told my husband:
“Think of your baby like a sack of potatoes, not fine China.”
It’s not so much about the massage techniques in the very beginning, but more about early touch, and getting really comfortable in moving your baby around, not feeling like it’s this fragile thing you’re going to break- especially for Dad. You can touch your baby in a very firm and loving way, and you are not going to hurt your baby.
S: Did you learn Infant Massage techniques as well in your training?
D: I’ve got to say, in my post-partum training, we learned nothing about Infant Massage. If there was information, it was definitely glossed over. We did not learn any techniques. But, it makes sense because the focus needs to be on mothering the mother. Baby is not awake enough during the day in the first 1-4 weeks to even do a massage routine, and mom is still recovering. Just like you said, you don’t even encourage moms to come out to classes until 6-8 weeks.
S: Besides touch, what other tools do you give parents for bonding?
D: Teaching parents how to interact with their baby verbally is also important, because many are often at a loss, “What do I say?” So, I encourage them to narrate simple tasks throughout the day- “I’m changing your diaper now. Ooh, does this wipe feel a little cold?…”
Singing to your baby is also a great way to bond, even if you don’t fancy your own voice, your baby definitely does! So, bust out your version of the Everly Brothers.
S: Wow, post partum doulas do so much! What don’t you do?
D: What I tell my clients in my initial interviews is that post-partum doulas are experts in nurturing mom and family, and very knowledgeable about a lot of different things, but we are not experts in everything. However, we have a network of amazing referrals for lactation, for infant massage, physical therapy, cranial sacral, etc. To be a good post-partum doula you need to have a fantastic network of specialists.
Each post-partum doula does many of the same things, with their own set of specialties they bring to the table. According to Davya, the clients that fit her, find her.
S: Give us some examples of what you like to cook for families.
D: I draw on the wisdom of different cultures’ postpartum philosophies and choose the very best, that make the most sense to me. In Chinese medicine and Ayurveda there are very specific foods for warming and healing mama from the inside, just after giving birth. These foods help build vitality, restore blood and chi, and build digestive fire. Indian herbs and spices, such as cumin, coriander, ginger and turmeric help reduce inflammation.
Dayva’s sample menu:
- Mung beans and rice with ginger and sea salt (very limited spice in the beginning). This dish acts as a stool softener. Every mom, after they’ve had their baby, is afraid to poop. If you eat this, there’s a very easy stool.
- Almonds mixed with ghee and honey. The skin of almonds is very beneficial post birth, delicious too.
- Sabzee (Indian curry)- A Sikh recipe with cauliflower, spinach and peas.
- Coconut butternut squash soup, with all the Indian spices.
- Mushroom, vegetable barley soup. Great for milk production and digestion, baby’s digestion too. Mushrooms are believed to build vitality in Chinese medicine.
I encourage women not to eat raw, cold foods in the first two weeks (after birth). If their constitution runs hot, maybe cold foods are okay for them. However, our digestive systems are compromised, not fully functioning right after baby is born. You want warming, soft foods.
S: Sounds similar to the Ayurvedic foods my East Indian mother-in-law made. But, what if mom or dad isn’t into it?
D: I also love to bring cheesy omelets, toast, and tea to mom and papa in bed, so they don’t have to get up. I love to cook, so I can easily make whatever parents prefer.
I’m about to change my fee structure, so parents can choose a Basic package, that would just include lighter meals, or my Healing Hands & Meals package, which incorporates my massage & holistic cooking.
I know many moms in pregnancy think breastfeeding is just going to come easily. Just like we’re told giving birth should be… But, new moms know how HARD things really are!
S: How do you provide breast-feeding support through your cooking and services?
D: There are no scientific studies to prove that certain foods increase milk production; however, there are cultural beliefs that support mother’s nutrition to help her body make milk. Will it increase her supply? Maybe. But, if a mom is having difficulty breastfeeding, I can also help with baby’s latch, make sure mom is positioned well, and most importantly- help mom relax. We’re going to soothe baby, get baby naked skin to skin with mom, and let baby play with the breast. Not force them to nurse. Give them space and time to do what they’re going to do. Let’s help bring the central nervous system down, and the oxytocin up. Take the pressure off… Remind mom it’s a skill, like learning how to play Tennis. Just because you watch Tennis on TV does not mean you’re going to step out onto that court and know how to swing a racket to make connection with the ball.
S: I feel like the right post-partum support can help so many moms not to give up when things get overwhelming. Which can happen learning anything new, especially when a little bundle of life responsibility is attached to you.
D: Sometimes moms just need to hear “You’re doing a great job! There is no one else who could do as good of a job as you are right now.” Moms need to be praised. Take all the stress down, and build the confidence up. A mom who’s relaxed, the more confidence she will have. Mom must be treated like a Queen. Don’t forget you’re doing all these things with your baby for the very first time! Take lots of photos and celebrate the tiny successes!!
S: What’s your favorite thing about being a post-partum doula?
D: One of my favorite things is doing baby’s First Bath with families. And, we take a family photo to celebrate it! I encourage parents to get in the tub with baby, skin to skin, supporting the back of the head. I educate them on Infant dive reflex, like we learned in Constantia’s class.
S: Constantia’s Dolphinsgate Swim class was such a special time for me, learning to be comfortable in the water with Sage…
D: She talked about how parents don’t need to fear their baby’s face going into the water, because it was submerged in water for nine months. They have not forgotten that. So, taking a bath with your baby, letting their full body be submerged (up to the neck), is going to bring up warm memories from the womb.
Recreating the position baby was in in the womb can be very helpful too. I had a client whose baby was born breech. (Yes, breech delivery does happen) And, baby was very uncomfortable in the bath on her back. So, I thought let’s try her sitting up, which is what she was doing for many months in the womb. We sat baby right in front of mom, with mom’s arm wrapped around her chest, and baby calmed right down. We had her submerged all the way up to her neck as mom moved her around in the warm water, so calm and peaceful.
S: This sounds beautiful, like Dr. Leboyer’s baby bath.
D: I teach parents to respect their baby’s body. If we can bring our own energy down, we’re much more able to be in tune with our baby to learn their likes and dislikes, which helps us have a calmer baby.
That is the exact reason I teach Infant Massage to parents. To help them get comfortable touching and deeply bonding with the human being that is their baby. So that they become the expert at reading their baby’s cues and tuning into their needs, which starts with respect and observing their likes and dislikes.
S: What about post-partum depression? How do you deal with that?
D: I have only encountered mild baby blues. There’s a scale. I’ve seen anxiety. That’s a symptom of depression. We’re in a very intimate time together, so I get asked all kinds of questions about how to deal with family relationships, or sex, you name it. I encourage moms to continue speaking to their therapist, if they were seeing one before having a baby. Or, I would refer them to a licensed psychotherapist if I saw signs of post-partum depression.
“I help mom process the birth story each time I’m there. I encourage moms to cry. It’s cleansing the chi.”
Whether it’s happy or sad crying, or for no reason at all, usually after a good cry you’re going to feel rung out afterwards, and have a different perspective on the situations at hand.
S: Do you encourage Placenta Encapsulation to help with mood swings?
D: We’re just working on a podcast about Placenta. Placenta encapsulation can be very helpful to some moms, who choose to do it, but not every mom will want to.
“I think not doing too much, not putting too much pressure on yourself, general TLC you get from positive people around you- all of that is going to help you stay positive and feel supported.”
I know as an Infant Massage Instructor I often times get a call when parents are in the weeds, needing Gas & Colic Relief for example.
S: When should parents hire a Post-Partum Doula?
D: 1 out of 5 parents call me during pregnancy. The other calls come in at 3 days old, 1 week old, or 4-6 weeks because baby’s going through a developmental leap, and their sleep patterns are changing.
S: How long do you typically stay with a family?
D: Ideally, I’m only there during the first 1-12 weeks. The first 1-4 weeks all baby does is sleep, and their vision is blurred. As days and weeks go by, baby’s world gets bigger and bigger, and as their vision becomes more and more clear, they are able to see a bit further.
“The bigger baby’s world gets, the more support we need as parents.”
When that big shift happens in sleep and digestive changes, parents are often overwhelmed. As mom is getting her energy back, and wants to be more mobile, my support changes. It becomes a little less mama-centric and a little more parent-centric.
Teaching Dad/partner basic massage strokes, diaper duties, swaddling, and soothing is all part of my exit strategy. The more dad/partner feels taken care of, the more energy reserves and confidence he has to take care of mom and baby when I leave.
If only we could educate parents more in pregnancy about how challenging those first few months really are.
S: Do you encourage parents to create a Post Partum Care Plan in pregnancy?
D: I tell my families, “You are preparing for the Next Phase of your life.” The more information you get in pregnancy, the better prepared you are to take care yourselves and seek the help you need after baby is born.
“It should be evenly weighted with childbirth education.”
S: What is the one thing you would like all families to know about post-partum recovery?
D: Ultimately you’re going to need more help than you think you need. Look at all the things you normally do, that you’re not going to be able to do right after birth, and find someone else to do them for you. What are some of your hopes and goals for the first few weeks with your baby? What do you need support in? I’m here to help you make sure those things happen.
It really does take a village!
S: Thank you Dayva for sharing all your post-partum wisdom!